Speaking With Authority

 Are you in control when you speak to a group?

When Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, in his nominating speech for Michael Dukakis at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, spoke the words, “In closing…” a roar went up in the convention hall. He was finally finishing!

Fortunately for him, his 1992 speech, accepting his own nomination, got much better marks. In fact, some said it was the best speech of his life. Not only was it important as a kickoff for his first presidential campaign, but Clinton erased once and for all the memory of that dud four years earlier.

That story has at least three important points. One, you’re never too good or too experienced to ignore some of the fundamentals of good speaking. Two, you can give an occasional poor speech and still retain your charisma, as Clinton did in the intervening four years. And three-and most important-the ability to communicate well to groups of people can make a critical difference in your career.

In fact, a study conducted by AT&T and Stanford University revealed that the top predictor of professional success and upward mobility is how much you enjoy and how good you are at public speaking. Yet surveys also show that the number one fear of most adults (even above death) is speaking in public. Now there’s a contradiction for you: The best thing for anyone’s career is also what we most fear!

The ability to speak confidently is one of the most marketable skills you can acquire. Organizations continually seek individuals who can sell products, present proposals, report findings, and explain ideas effectively. It’s no coincidence that more than 50 percent of Toastmasters clubs are in-house corporate or government groups.

Audiences, accustomed now to slick media, are less tolerant than ever of marginal presentation skills. So the ante has been upped, the bar has been raised, on what level of public speaking is now needed to get your message across.

Here are some other tricks of the trade:

1. Really care about your subject. Passion is the starting point of all good public speaking.  Peggy Noonan, President Reagan’s celebrated speechwriter, describes a speech as “poetry: cadence, rhythm, imagery, sweep! [It] reminds us that words, like children, have the power to make dance the dullest beanbag of a heart.”

So pick a subject that has an inordinate impact on you, a subject you’d like to share with others because you know, intensely, that they could benefit from your knowledge. Your enthusiasm will show through.

2. Be brief. The best way to impress an audience is to finish early. “My father gave me this advice on speech making,” said James Roosevelt, son of FDR: “Be sincere … be brief … be seated.” So hit it hard, hit it well, finish strong, and, for maximum impression, keep it short. The less opportunity you give your audience’s minds to wander, the more they’ll appreciate you and remember what you had to say.

3. Make use of memory joggers. You can keep attention high and help people remember your message if you use ample examples to transmit your message powerfully. Similarly, statistics, if used sparingly and presented simply, can add drama and credibility to your message. Comparisons can help your audience evaluate different options quickly and logically, and testimony-personal stories of credible people-can make your message more memorable and believable.

4. Remember the pause that refreshes. The sweet sound of silence, the power of the pause, can be artfully used in any speech. Pauses are not really empty spaces. Instead, they’re opportunities for the audience to respond to your words with their own thoughts, images, and feelings.

 “The right word may be effective,” Mark Twain said, “but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

5. Don’t dawdle at the finish line. Good speakers understand that the end is just as important-and maybe more so-as the beginning. This is your chance to sum up your best thoughts, words, and images and imprint them indelibly on the audience’s collective brain.

Don’t miss that opportunity by running beyond your time limit, or fumbling your final message. Know what you want to say, say it, and then say good night.

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About Assessment Business Center
Dr. Tony Alessandra has a street-wise, college-smart perspective on business, having been raised in the housing projects of NYC to eventually realizing success as a graduate professor of marketing, entrepreneur, business author, and hall-of-fame keynote speaker. He earned a BBA from the Univ. of Notre Dame, an MBA from the Univ. of Connecticut and his PhD in marketing from Georgia State University. In addition to being president of Assessment Business Center, a company that offers online 360º assessments, Tony is also a founding partner in The Cyrano Group and Platinum Rule Group--companies which have successfully combined cutting-edge technology and proven psychology to give salespeople the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with hundreds of clients and prospects. Dr. Alessandra is a prolific author with 27 books translated into over 50 foreign language editions, including the newly revised, best selling The NEW Art of Managing People (Free Press/Simon & Schuster, 2008); Charisma (Warner Books, 1998); The Platinum Rule (Warner Books, 1996); Collaborative Selling (John Wiley & Sons, 1993); and Communicating at Work (Fireside/Simon & Schuster, 1993). He is featured in over 50 audio/video programs and films, including Relationship Strategies (American Media); The Dynamics of Effective Listening (Nightingale-Conant); and Non-Manipulative Selling (Walt Disney). He is also the originator of the internationally-recognized behavioral style assessment tool - The Platinum Rule®. Recognized by Meetings & Conventions Magazine as "one of America's most electrifying speakers," Dr. Alessandra was inducted into the Speakers Hall of Fame in 1985. In 2009, he was inducted as one of the “Legends of the Speaking Profession,” in 2010 and 2011 he was selected as one of the Top 5 Marketing Speakers by Speaking.com, and in 2010 Tony was elected into the inaugural class of the Sales Hall of Fame. Tony's polished style, powerful message, and proven ability as a consummate business strategist consistently earn rave reviews and loyal clients. Contact information for Dr. Tony Alessandra: • Dr. Tony’s Products: http://www.alessandra.com/products/index.asp • Keynote Speeches: Holli Catchpole: Phone: 1-760-603-8110 ● Email: Holli@SpeakersOffice.com • Corporate Training: Scott Zimmerman: Phone: 1-330-848-0444 x2 ● Email: Scott@PlatinumRuleGroup.com • Cyrano CRM System: Scott Zimmerman: Phone: 1-330-848-0444 x2 ● Email: Scott@PlatinumRuleGroup.com

5 Responses to Speaking With Authority

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